December 13, 2021

2021 State of Child Welfare Report

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children has released their 2021 State of Child Welfare Report, which raises concerns about the need to strengthen the child welfare system. Data was collected in 2020, highlighting only the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report shows a decrease in child protective services reporting and the number of children placed in foster care statewide.

Report Findings

In 2020 there were 32,919 CPS reports, which was a 22% decline in reports from 2019, but the substantiation of reports was the highest in the last five years, with 14% of reports being investigated and found to be true. Notably, stay-at-home orders, moving to virtual learning, and less contact with medical professionals created a significant decrease in mandated reporting trends during the year for which the most recent data is available.

While substantiation rates did increase, data from 2021 will be significant to see how trends shift as schools resumed in-person instruction. There was subsequently more interaction between mandated reporters, such as teachers, with children and families. We anticipate the 2021 data will show an increase in referrals and a potential decrease in substantiation as the system struggles to respond to the needs of children experiencing abuse and neglect during an unprecedented time of crisis.

In 2020, 21,689 children were served in the Pennsylvania foster care system, a 12% decrease in the total population from the prior year. Fewer referrals being made by mandated reporters means fewer occasions to identify abuse leading to placement.

Additional Information

The full 2021 State of Child Welfare report, as well as a snapshot for each county, can be viewed on the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children website.